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The Brief: Nov. 18, 2010

No one said a speaker's race was nice, but things are getting ugly out there.

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THE BIG CONVERSATION:

No one said a speaker's race was nice, but things are getting ugly out there.

In the race for the Texas House's top post, state Reps. Warren Chisum of Pampa and Ken Paxton of McKinney — the two conservative Republicans trying to unseat moderate incumbent Joe Straus — on Wednesday distanced themselves from anti-Semitic e-mails sent to Republican voters by conservative activists.

Straus, a Jew, "is going down in Jesus' name," said one e-mail. Another, written by conservative activist Peter Morrison, said Straus "clearly lacks the moral compass to be speaker" and described Chisum and Paxton as "Christians and true conservatives." (Morrison has said he was simply making "factual statements" about the candidates.) Robocalls were also reported.

Both Chisum and Paxton repudiated the language on Wednesday. "There is absolutely no place for religious bigotry in the race for Texas Speaker, and I categorically condemn such action," Paxton said. And Chisum: "I assure you that those sorts of attacks on a man's religion have absolutely no place in the race for Speaker. None. I absolutely reject all such attacks or insinuations."

On Wednesday, a little drama was also stirred with the help of state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who's hoping to sit the three candidates down for a meeting on neutral ground (which, as the Trib's Elise Hu couldn't help but observe, is making things look a little mafia-like).

Patrick said in a statement that all three candidates had agreed to the meeting, but Straus' office later said it had done no such thing. An aide to Patrick responded, "I don't know if this is reflecting internal discord, but Dan stands beside his statement."

CULLED:

  • Gov. Rick Perry, in San Diego to promote his new book and attend the annual meeting of the Republican Governors Association, which he was last week tapped to lead, has indicated that he may be among a growing coalition of GOP governors looking to replace Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, Politico reports.
  • After the prosecution rested Wednesday, Tom DeLay's defense stumbled out of the gate, presenting evidence that showed the former U.S. House majority leader in a compromising meeting with a political aide in 2002.
  • The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Wednesday that life without parole is not an unreasonable punishment for juvenile murderers.
  • Forty-six Texas doctors disciplined by the state have received more than $800,000 from drug firms since 2009, according to a Dallas Morning News/ProPublica investigative piece.

"You have a government that is dysfunctional. You're over-taxing, you're over-regulating, you're over-litigating." — Gov. Rick Perry on California's economic woes

MUST-READ:

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